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Behind the Badge Police officers have to think of safety before people’s feelings

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Posted: Monday, March 21, 2011 12:00 am

Sometimes you just can't please everyone.

This week's rant is going to discuss why people sometimes get mad at us for the way we do business on the street. A pretty common complaint people have stems from the way they are questioned, contacted or arrested when they are suspected of a crime or have broken the law.

You're not going to believe this, but some people don't like getting arrested. Some people don't even like talking to the police. Crazy, right?

How is that possible? How can people not like talking to us? Oh well, sometimes you just can't please everyone. But we still try.

Here are some of the complaints we routinely hear, what we think when we hear them (what I think anyway), and a little bit of why we do what we do.

Common scenario No. 1: A burglary occurs. We have witnesses, and we have developed good information that the suspect just fled into a particular residence. We muster up a couple of cops and make contact. Once we do, we notice we have located the suspect, and act quickly.

The suspect's mother is home (yes, thieves often live with their parents), and she starts yelling at us, "You didn't have to come to my house with that many cops, making us look like criminals! It's just my son! You're gonna get me evicted!"

Well gee whiz, Mom, I didn't realize it was your son who burglarized that house. If I had known, I would have taken him out for a cheeseburger value meal, then read him a story before I told him he was under arrest. Sorry about that.

Common scenario No. 2: A shooting occurs. Fortunately, nobody is hit, but someone took a few shots at someone.

Once we arrive on scene, we start getting information that it may be gang-related. We then find a witness who saw the shooting, and recognized the suspect from living in the area. The witness wants to help, and gives us the name of the suspect. We recognize him as one of our younger local gang members.

As we are searching for the suspect, we locate him walking down the street. He sees us and runs. We act quickly and accordingly, which involves the yelling of lots of commands, lights, sirens, and subsequently detaining him at gunpoint.

Just as this is happening, residents come out of their homes and recognize the suspect as a neighborhood kid. Not knowing anything about what happened, people quickly become angry, yelling, "You don't have to treat him that way! He is just a kid! This is police brutality!"

OK, yes, he is just a kid. He is 16 years old, and that 16-year-old just tried to kill someone. Since he is only 16, I guess to make some people happy, I should have tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me sonny, can we get an ice cream and discuss this whole shooting nonsense?" Unfortunately, we can't call a time out to explain to everyone what going on.

And last but not least, "All you had to do was call me! You didn't have to show up at my house embarrassing me in front of everyone. I would have come in!" OK, then. The next time I will just call, and this is what I will expect from you:

Officer: "Hi there. This is Sheriff Taylor from Mayberry PD. You remember that stabbing you did yesterday?"

Suspect: "Oh yeah, Sheriff. How can I help you with that?"

Officer: "Well, if it's not too much trouble, could you come to the police department so I can arrest you, and with any luck, have you spend the next three to five years in prison?"

Suspect: "Sure thing. I just started dinner though, but I'd be happy to come down in just a little bit. Would 6:30 be OK?"

Officer: "Yeah, that would be great. Thanks. Since you may not be home for three to five years, don't forget to turn out the lights and get someone to care for the dog. Lock your doors, too, because there are a lot of thieves out there."

Suspect: "Oh thanks, I would have forgotten that. I sure hate thieves. I'll see you soon."

We as officers all have a couple of common goals. One, of course, is to get the bad guys, and maintain a safe city to live in. But our other goal is to go home to our families alive at the end of the day. People don't like to be arrested, and often react violently. We need to conduct ourselves in the safest manner possible, keeping the safety of the public in mind, as well as our own.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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